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Hall of Fame

Akers, Wynalda and Caligiuri are voted to induction.

Eric Wynalda
Eric Wynalda is the leading all-time goal-scorer for the U.S. men with 34 and also scored the first MLS goal.
-- Hall of Fame photo --
CARSON, Calif. (Wednesday, May 5, 2004) -- The election of Michelle Akers, Eric Wynalda and Paul Caligiuri to the National Soccer Hall of Fame was announced today at a press conference at The Home Depot Center.

Induction and enshrinement ceremonies will take place on Columbus Day weekend, October 9-11, at the Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y.

Akers led the balloting with 70 votes, garnering 95.9 percent of the 73 total ballots. Wynalda had 68 votes, 93.2 of what was possible. Caligiuri had 65 votes, 89.0 percent of possible ballots.

In the annual balloting, the top two players with the most votes will be elected as long as each receives more than 50 percent of possible ballots. A third player can be elected as long as he or she receives at least 80 percent of possible votes. The voting was done by a panel that included media, coaches and executives.

Once a player becomes eligible for the ballot, he and she remains on it for seven years. If not elected for induction after that period, players are then eligible for election via the Veteran's Ballot.

The three 2004 inductees have scored some of the most memorable goals in recent United States soccer history. Besides scoring the first goal in the history of the U.S. women, Akers scored both goals, including the winner in closing moments, to defeat host Norway 2-1 to capture the inaugural women's world championship in 1991.

Caligiuri's magnificent 35-yard dipping volley against Trinidad & Tobago in the final game of 1989 qualifying put the U.S. into the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. Wynalda, whose 34 international goals remain the record for the U.S. men, delivered a free-kick masterpiece against Switzerland in the 1994 World Cup, considered one of the most spectacular goals of the tournament.

Michelle Akers
Michelle Akers helped the U.S. women win two world championships and an Olympic gold medal.
-- Hall of Fame photo --
In addition to the 1991 world championship, Akers, 38, helped the U.S. women capture the 1996 Summer Olympics and 1999 Women's World Cup titles. For the last eight years of her career, she battled Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an affliction that, for many people, leads to an inability to complete any physical exertion. In 2000, Akers received world governing body FIFA's "Player of the Century" award for women.

"You play your whole career working on getting better, thinking about what I have to do to get better," Akers said. "When you lose, what I have to do to win or coming back form an injury or whatever challenge is in front of you. Then, when I retired, I had the chance to look and revisit, look inside and see what we did as a team. I really need to say thanks to my teammates and my coaches. We lived a lot of days, hard days at that, together, and, managed to come out on top. Without my teammates and my coaches and a lot of people, working their butts off around me, I never would have had this opportunity."

Wynalda, 34, literally started MLS out on the right foot with a bending shot to the far post on April 6, 1996, that gave the San Jose Clash a 1-0 decision over D.C. United in the league's inaugural game.

Wynalda, who scored his 34 goals in 106 appearances for the U.S. from 1990-2000, came to MLS after a successful, ground-breaking career in Germany, where he became the first American to secure a starting job in a major European league while at Saarbrucken.

His MLS career included 98 regular-season and 12 playoff games with San Jose, the New England Revolution and the Chicago Fire. He had 34 goals and 37 assists in the regular season and two goals and two assists in the postseason.

A serious knee injury forced his retirement in 2001 and sent him to the broadcasting booth. He currently does analysis on MLS's weekly Saturday game with Rob Stone on ESPN2.

"It is very special for me because I am going in with Paul," Wynalda said. "As a player, he was a mentor to me. When I first came to the national team, he was my first roommate. And he was trying to get to the German first division -- that was his dream. And when I went there, he was an integral part of that. Iíll never forget that. It would not have happened without Paul.

"It is a little bit bittersweet for me. Knowing that I am just 34 years old and can still play this game but injuries prevented me from continuing. Thatís a sad part. But this is an incredible honor. Thank you to coaches like Siggy Schmidt and Bob Gansler who helped me. This is the best part of my career so far."

Paul Caligiuri
Paul Caligiuri scored the "Goal Heard Round The World" to send the U.S. men to the 1990 World Cup.
-- Hall of Fame photo --
Caligiuri, 40, rose from his defender position to icon on November 19, 1989, when his looping volley from 35 yards beat Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 in the qualifying finale. If the match ended in a draw, Trinidad would have advanced instead of the Americans, but the U.S. qualified for the first time since the historic performance in 1950.

Though he might be remembered for one play, Caligiuri was a member of the 1990 and 1994 World Cup teams, starting every match in those events and playing all but 18 minutes,

He was one of the first American players to compete in the German Bundesliga and had a six-year career in Major League Soccer with the Columbus Crew and the Los Angeles Galaxy. In his final professional match, Caligiuri helped Los Angeles win the 2001 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship.

"I know that being elected to Hall of Fame is very important, but it isnít the end of my commitment to building the sport here in the United States," Caligiuri said. "My commitment to the game is far from over. But reflecting back on my career, there are so many things I think about -- having great memories, making great friends, traveling to far places, having great experiences on and off the soccer field."

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